Alan Watts on Carl Jung


Alan Watts
 speaks about the time he met with Carl Jung. Topics discussed include approaching Eastern Philosophies as a westerner, Jung’s ability to distill ancient wisdom in modern psychological terms, the collective unconscious and more.

Transcription

There was a sort of twinkle in Jung’s eye that gave me the impression that he knew himself to be just as much a villain as everybody else.

There is a nice German word, hintergedanken, which means a thought in the very far far back of your mind. Jung had a hintergedanken in the back of his mind that showed in the twinkle in his eye. It showed that he knew and recognized what I sometimes call the element of irreducible rascality in himself. And he knew it so strongly and so clearly and in a way so lovingly, that he would not condemn the things in others and would therefore not be lead into those thoughts, feelings, and acts of violence towards others which are always characteristic of the people who project the devil in themselves upon the outside – upon somebody else – upon the scapegoat.

Now this made Jung a very integrated character.

In other words, here I have to present a little bit of a complex idea.

He was man who was thoroughly with himself – having seen and accepted his own nature profoundly. He had a kind of a unity and absence of conflict in his own nature which had to exhibit additional complications that I find so fascinating.

He was the sort of man who could feel anxious and afraid and guilty without being ashamed of feeling this way. In other words, he understood that an integrated person is not a person who has simply eliminated the sense of guilt or the sense of anxiety from his life – who is fearless and wooden and kind of sage of stone. He is a person who feels all these things, but has no recriminations against himself for feeling them.

And this is to my mind a profound kind of humor. You know in humor there is always a certain element of malice. There was a talk given on the Pacifica stations just a little while ago which was an interview with Al Capp. And Al Capp made the point that he felt that all humor was fundamentally malicious.
Now there’s a very high kind of humor which is humor at one’s self – malice towards one’s self. The recognition of the fact that behind the social role that you assume; behind all your pretentions to being either a good citizen or a fine scholar or a great scientist or a leading politician or a physician or whatever you happen to be – that behind this façade – there is a certain element of the unreconstructed bum. Not as something to be condemned and wailed over, but as something to be recognized as contributive to one’s greatness and to one’s positive aspect; in the same way that manure is contributive to the perfume of the rose.jung-mandala

Jung saw this and Jung accepted this and I want to read a passage from one of this lectures, which I think is one of the greatest things he ever wrote. And which has been a very marvelous thing for me. It was in a lecture delivered to a group of clergy in Switzerland a considerable number of years ago ago and he writes as follows:

People forget that even doctors have moral scruples and that certain patient’s confessions are hard even for a doctor to swallow. Yet the patient does not feel himself accepted unless the very worst of him is accepted too. No one can bring this about by mere words. It comes only through reflection and through the doctor’s attitude towards himself and his own dark side. If the doctor wants to guide another or even accompany him a step of the way, he must feel with that person’s psyche. He never feels it when he passes judgment. Whether he puts his judgments into words or keeps them to himself, makes not the slightest difference. To take the opposite position and to agree with the patient offhand is also of no use but estranges him as much as condemnation. Feeling comes only through unprejudiced objectivity.

This sounds almost like a scientific precept. And it could be confused with a purely intellectual abstract attitude of mind. But what I mean is something quite different. It is a human quality: A kind of deep respect for the facts – for the man who suffers from them and for the riddle of such a man’s life. The truly religious person has such an attitude. He knows that God has brought all sort of strange and unconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most curious ways to enter a man’s heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the Divine Will. This is what I mean by unprejudiced objectivity. It is a moral achievement on the part of the doctor who ought not to let himself be repelled by sickness and corruption. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate. It oppresses. And I am the oppressor of the person I condemn – not his friend and fellow sufferer.

I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But, if the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is. Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult. In actual life, it requires the greatest art to be simple. And so, acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem, and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar – that I forgive an insult – that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all – the poorest of all beggars – the most impudent of all offenders – yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me? And that I myself stand in need of the arms of my own kindness. That I myself am the enemy that must be loved. What then?

Then, as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed. There is then no more talk of love and long suffering. We say to the brother within us: Rocca, and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world. We deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves. And had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.

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5 Comments

  • Reply
    Ashlesha BJ
    May 29, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Lovely and most profound article I have come across

  • Reply
    James Jensen
    May 31, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    Whenever I think I am having some sort of ground-breaking thought, it only takes a few weeks to find that someone else has already succinctly and artfully conveyed that thought into lovely words. Thanks for publishing this latest example from Jung.

  • Reply
    evoc
    October 30, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Perfect.

  • Reply
    Robert
    October 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I am ackowlwdging the oneness of us all in practice just now. I needed this to further break down the wall that is not there.

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